THE TREE AND THE RIVER
Life, then, is the eternal Being. This divine Person is what lies between God’s creation in the beginning and God’s building at the end. This life is the means or procedure through which God will accomplish His purpose. In the New Jerusalem, God’s eternal goal, the tree of life appears again (Rev. 22:2). It grows on both sides of a flowing river. This vivid picture tells us that even in eternity the tree of life will be the process by which the city is maintained. By the time we reach Revelation 21, the city has been produced, but the keeping element for all eternity will be the flowing supply of this life. God’s eternal building will be maintained with the very life grown in the flowing river. Even in the New Jerusalem life is not the goal but the process by which the goal is reached and maintained.
Even now we are all in that flow! Furthermore, that flow is within us! From the day we accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, there has been something flowing within us. Even in coming to a meeting, we are brought by a flow, not by ourselves. This river within is the source of our strength and joy. The flow within us, and the flow we are in, indicates that we are all in the process of God’s building. Whether we love the Lord or are careless, sooner or later we shall all be processed into the New Jerusalem. When we get there, some of us may be surprised that we ever made it. We may wonder how we managed to arrive, along with so many others whose love for the Lord seemed so much stronger than ours. We may be assured that the flow we are in is not at a standstill! It is a process, which will some day take us all to the New Jerusalem.
This flow began in Genesis 2, where we are told that “a river went out of Eden to water the garden” where the tree of life was. A river is mentioned again in Psalm 36:8: “Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” In Ezekiel 47 the river again appears. When we come to John 7:38, the one river has become rivers. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” At the end of the Bible the river is still flowing.
THE FLOW OF THE RIVER
All of us are in this flowing river. Even if we want to sidestep it, we have been caught and have no way out. We have been ensnared by the hunter! We are the fish with the hook in our mouth! Gospel preachers are hunters. The Lord told Peter he would be a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19). Surely that word was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the fisherman caught three thousand fish (Acts 2:41)! I got caught on that hook fifty years ago. In spite of struggling my hardest to get free, I only became more and more trapped. This is the story of all of us. Even if we backslide, the hook will only sink in the more deeply. Our final destiny will not be the lake of fire, but the city of water. We shall be in that city of living water.
How are we going to get there? There is no plane to take and no transportation charge to pay! We are being carried there in the flow of this river. Every day, with the passage of time, we are being brought closer and closer to that city. Just as an airplane brings us to our destination even while we are sleeping, so we may be unaware that this flow is carrying us nearer and nearer to the New Jerusalem. When we wake up, we shall be there!
THE NEED FOR JOHN’S EPISTLES
Life is the process we are under. This life is fully unfolded to us in the twenty-one chapters of the Gospel of John. Why, then, did John still write the three Epistles, an additional seven chapters? Many basic factors are unveiled only in these Epistles and are not mentioned elsewhere.
No doubt we all have life, but the process of life does not happen overnight. We are not saved one day and in the New Jerusalem the next. Hundreds of chapters are sandwiched between the first two chapters of the Bible and the last two! Between creation and building many complications arise in the process of life. There are joys and sorrows, songs and lamentations. Thus, after the Gospel of John, we need the Epistles of John.
Only here do we have a saying like this: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:1-3).
The preaching of the gospel, these verses indicate, is the declaration of life as a Person to people. It is not the passing on of doctrine or knowledge, but the proclamation of a Person who is life.
(Seven Mysteries in the First Epistle of John, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)